NEW YORK — The bold new feature inside the Droid Turbo 2 smartphone Motorola and Verizon Wireless start selling Thursday is shatterproof glass. The two companies only have to hope that this new feature shatters something else, the idea that Droid is somehow no longer as relevant.
Indeed, a half-dozen years ago when the original Droid launched, it was the carrier’s big answer to AT&T’s original iPhone and the first truly popular Android alternative. The Droid franchise has remained exclusive to Verizon ever since. Turbo 2 ($26 monthly for 32GB, or $30 for 64GB) is the latest flagship in the Droid lineup.
But now, Android is the world’s leading mobile operating system, and there are, it seems, about a gazillion Android handsets out there. So phone makers are constantly trying to drum up fresh features to make their devices stand out. And with Turbo 2, Motorola and Verizon hope to compete against iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxys.
Three years in the making, the Moto ShatterShield feature on the 5.4-display inside the Turbo 2 is the chief way Motorola hopes the new Droid will get noticed, though the device also sports at least one other significant consumer benefit, notably a battery that the company claims can last up to two days on a single charge. If you are low on juice, Motorola says you can get to 13 hours of power by charging the phone for only 15 minutes.
The camera specs (21-megapixel on the front) have also been bolstered. And you can customize the device through Motorola’s Moto Maker service.
Still, the shatterproof screen is the potential breakthrough here. According to Motorola, a smartphone display cracks every 2 seconds, and 63% of smartphone owners who have shattered their current display choose not to have it repaired due to the expense or hassle.
“The feature is a big deal because it addresses a real consumer pain point. People drop their phones, screens shatter. You see it everywhere,” says Current Analysis tech analyst Avi Greengart. “At this point, the Droid brand doesn’t have the cache of Apple or Samsung, but it still sells well enough for Verizon to order them and Motorola to build them.”
The phone passed my initial drop tests. I let it loose from about six feet above a hard floor at the Manhattan launch venue and the screen didn’t shatter. I threw it against a hard desk in my office. Same result. I also watched Motorola president Rick Osterloh repeatedly drop the device against concrete–the display again survived over and over.
That doesn’t mean that you should intentionally mishandle the device. Avoid dropping it from the stratosphere. Avoid sharp objects that could potentially scratch the screen. I happened to peek at another Turbo 2 phone that had been repeatedly dropped over several days, and while the screen didn’t shatter there was a subtle scratch. Osterloh says the phone could indeed get dinged along the edges. The phone is water-resistant but not ruggedized.
Osterloh hopes that the ShatterShield technology will eventually make it onto other Motorola phones, and maybe even Lenovo notebooks. (The Chinese company owns Motorola.) But the costs have to come down first.
“When we first launched the Droid it had features and specs that weren’t in any other phone in the market,” Jeff Dietel, Verizon’s vice president for wireless devices, says. “That core tenet is embedded in the heritage and DNA of the Droid and we don’t plan to change that anytime soon.”
One thing the new phone doesn’t have is a fingerprint sensor, such as those found on many top-tier rivals. That’s too bad.
It also doesn’t yet have the latest version of Android, Marshmallow, though it is promised later in a software update. You’ll have to live with Android Lollipop for now.
At just under 6-ounces, the phone also feels a little heavy.
Motorola and Verizon separately announced a more budget-oriented Droid Maxx 2 ($16 per month) with the same long battery promise. Don’t drop it though – it doesn’t have a shatterproof screen.
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